We live in a highly digitalized world, and information comes to us on a daily basis in different shapes and forms, be it a blog post like this one, a picture, or a sound; they all transmit a specific message and convey some type of insight. Whether we want it, recognize it, or not, we produce content more often than we think. The text message you sent to your friend letting them know that you will be joining them for a night out – that’s content, and the picture you posted on Instagram after the night out? – also content! Then, what is “content writing” – a term you have most likely seen circulating on your media pages?
To start with the basics, content writing is the process of producing written material for marketing and communications purposes. It refers to the planning, writing, and editing of the content that is bound to be published in the realm of digital marketing or in print publications, whenever necessary. Content writing can manifest itself as blogging, emails, social media posts, product descriptions, etc. Well-written content is one of the most crucial elements of the contemporary digital world, and it can do wonders for the website and the business inherently. Therefore, it is vital to identify the dos and don’ts of content writing and implement them in practice to support the growth process of the website and to improve your writing skills.
Here are the top 10 dos and don’ts of content writing that will help you go through your next written content.
1. Plan and outline beforehand
Have you ever been in a situation where you got the brief or an idea popped up in your head, and it’s time to write, but you don’t know where to start? You are not alone. As a graduating college student, I have often had multiple papers to write and only a vague idea of how to start. What has proven helpful for me is the planning and outlining prior to writing the piece.
What do I mean by planning? It’s a step-by-step guideline on how you are going to tackle your writing process. From the point where you have the topic, goals, and content format, start planning your actions. One way is to make a timeline and identify each step. Then, prepare the article outline. Start by creating sections as the skeleton of your writing piece and name them. The outline of this blog post would be the following:
- Introduction: Short description of what is content, content writing, and its types
- Body: 5 Do’s and 5 Don’ts in content writing
- Conclusion: Summarizing the ideas and solutions
What you saw above was a very brief and concise outline of the article. You are free to include as much detail as you wish, from links to articles that inspired you to random words, phrases, and sentences that you want to have in your piece.
2. Research, research, and once again research
It is essential not to let your ego fool you that you know everything about a particular topic when it comes to writing. Generally, it does not matter whether you are writing a feature article or a news article; take some time to study your subject. Skim the Internet, watch movies, listen to podcasts, or read books, and you would not have to worry about a lack of knowledge regarding your topic. Every content needs backup to feed into the ethos and ensure the author’s credibility, as well as prevent inadvertent misinformation. Backup can appear as data gathered from primary or secondary resources.
Research is also the number one tool to identify ways of using content to accomplish business goals. For example, what is the necessary content format or what writing style should be used if, let’s say, the goal is to get organic visits to the website.
Tip: Once you do your research, make sure to take notes and include links. That way, you are one click away from revisiting the information and applying it to your writing.
3. Review/proofread your content before publishing
Imagine, you have done the two steps mentioned above: you have written the piece and are ready to publish it. Do not forget to step back and zoom out of the text. Being absorbed in the content and the writing process, we tend not to notice spelling, grammatical, structural, or punctuation errors. Therefore, it would be a huge mistake not to double-check and proofread before publishing. Another way is to ask a friend or a colleague to proofread it for you. This is an important step, as once the reader spots an error, you lose credibility and, consequently, your professionalism suffers.
Tip: Read the text aloud to yourself – it makes it easier to spot the errors.
4. Find what works best for you
One of the most important elements of content writing is understanding what works best for you, whether it concerns the style and genre of the writing, finding your niche, or the writing process itself. Looking at this realistically, one cannot be skilled and passionate about every topic. Therefore, it is important to experiment with different genres and styles of writing to find what suits you best. As a content writer, you should explore your creativity. For example, try article writing, a blog post, or an ad copy, try different writing styles and determine, which works best for YOU; in other words, find your niche. Now, for the writing process, everyone has their own way of doing things. For instance, when I was taking a journalism class, this is the advice my instructor gave me when I was overthinking: “Just write whatever comes to your mind, let your thoughts flow freely.” I just wrote whatever came to mind and then went back and reviewed it all, and this process turned out to be quite helpful for me.
5. Study your target audience
While you should write freely and not limit yourself, you should not neglect your target audience and understand its demographics and psychographics. In short, demographics are quantitative data such as age, gender, location, job positions, marital status, etc., whereas psychographics cannot be measured as they contain beliefs, values, interests, and so on. Having the information at hand helps you determine what your audience wants to see, their needs, and their requirements. Therefore, adjusting your content to their interest keeps your audience engaged. In a nutshell, there is no point in writing if you have not studied your audience.
1. Do not plagiarize
Having identified what you should do, now it is time to consider what you should avoid doing while writing content. One of the most crucial and basic rules – not plagiarizing. You might recall your professors telling you about plagiarism and how you should never attempt it; it still applies in real life. You can always get inspiration from other sources, but when it comes to writing, you should generate your own material and never indulge in article rewriting. Not only it is not ethical, but you also lose credibility; moreover, if Google or other search engines detect duplicated content, they can penalize your website or even eliminate it from search.
2. Do not avoid keyword usage
While learning how to produce quality written content, one should not forget about SEO (search engine optimization). What is it, and why should we practice it? SEO is a method of including specific keywords, meta descriptions, inbound and outbound links to ensure the article’s visibility on search engines. The reason this is done is to make sure that when, for example, people search for “do’s and don’ts of content writing”, they come across this very article that you are reading right now. Moreover, search engines ensure organic traffic to your website. That’s why you should conduct relevant keyword research and prioritize the ones with the highest search volume. SEO content writing is a way of communicating with potential customers online to achieve business marketing goals.
Tip: Content readability also plays a substantial role in visibility. Therefore, keep your sentences simple and short and use transition words to communicate the ideas.
3. Don’t beat around the bush, be straight and concise
Let’s be honest, hardly anyone wants to read long texts with fancy and complicated words that make you sound smarter. Our attention span has decreased significantly with the emergence of social media platforms, such as Instagram or TikTok, where we get the instant dopamine of finding what we want in no time. Consequently, if you want your content to be read and appreciated, keep it simple and easy to comprehend, avoid using long paragraphs and sentences. One of the most common mistakes people make when incorporating SEO is thinking that longer text means better performance. When you are writing content, try to put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Would you want to read long and stretched sentences that beat around the bush and get to the point only at the end? I would assume rather not; hence, do not make your audience go through that too.
4. Don’t get caught up in what’s popular: unique content always wins
The emphasis here is on producing unique content as opposed to repeating what everybody writes. Creating original content is not easy, as the web is overflowing with information. You need to make sure that your content stands out in order to attract more clicks. One way to do it is by avoiding popular topics, as you might get lost in the sea of other posts about the same subject. Nevertheless, it can happen that you absolutely have to write about an overused topic. In that case, try giving a different viewpoint on the subject and add your unique touch to it. People are tired of repetitive content; give them something new!
5. Remember that you are a person too – show some personality
Finally, when creating content, one can easily lose their personality if they strictly adhere to the “rules” of writing. Make sure to show the readers a glimpse of who you are: try being witty, adding sarcastic lines (if your writing style allows that), or sharing your life examples; that way, you establish a connection with the audience and do not sound like a robot. If the reader notices your unique touch to the text, the chances of the reader clicking away significantly decrease, and, subsequently, you retain their interest.
If you have made it this far, congratulations! You now possess more knowledge about content writing than any other person who has not read this article! Content writing, just like any other skill, requires practice, and with practice come errors. Everyone makes mistakes, but why not try learning from the mistakes of others?
With all this knowledge, you can go ahead and start creating your own content right now.